Diamonds, gold … and colour
September 1967! The Venice Film Festival, known as the “Mostra”, opens in Venice. And on the day before the evening opening event, at a ball held in the Grand Canal Palace, Elizabeth Taylor makes headlines with one of those extravagant arrivals that she has so perfectly mastered, wearing a caftan dress embroidered with sequins, emerald jewellery, along with a hairstyle incorporating paper ribbons and shells that was especially created for her. The entire era is summed up in this apparition. The 1960s and 70s are a uniquely carefree period in the history of the 20th century. The rigid parameters that have previously defined society are melting away. Strictly established social barriers are crumbling. Instead, in New York, Paris, Monaco, London, Venice and Rome, billionaires, princes, movie stars and artists meet up according to the diary and seasons. Each and every one aspires to greater freedom. In France, Brigitte Bardot has transformed the little town of Saint-Tropez into the international capital of bohemian chic. In London, even Princess Margaret, the sister of the Queen of England, is not shy to attend premières, dressed in brightly coloured ethnic robes. Tradition has given way to fashion.
Piaget’s history was marked by this era. Created a little less than a century before, in 1874, by George Piaget in La Côte-aux-Fées, a small village perched on the southern flank of the Swiss Jura, this watch Manufacture was by then one of the most famous in the world. The 1960s were to turn the company’s habits upside down. The arrival of a new generation, with Yves Piaget in particular, the installation of a lounge for its Geneva clients, and the contrasting and sophisticated influences of these years of liberation, would have a profound influence on creation – in terms of designs, materials and colour contrasts. The winds of freedom were blowing through Piaget just as they were in the wider world. And paradoxically, certain innovations deemed highly daring for the time have today become classics of the House.
This year, in 2014, Piaget is celebrating its 140th anniversary and on the occasion of the 27th Biennale des Antiquaires, the company is highlighting a stellar period in its creative history from the 1960s and 70s, enhanced by the most precious materials: diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, hard stones and gold. 88 jewellery creations and 37 watches are being created especially for this event. The bold designs play on asymmetry, fluidity and stylisation. On some of these models, the boundary between jewellery and watch disappears completely. Colour is strongly present, notably with the hard stone dials, a House signature. A whole segment of the collection has in fact been christened “Extremely Colourful”.
Rarely have top-quality precious stones in terms of colour and clarity been so powerfully utilised, notably with more than 1,500 marquise-cut diamonds, a cut that is characteristic of Piaget’s jewellery work and used for more than half a century. Creations on which these diamonds dominate are regrouped in the second part of the collection named “Extremely Sparkling”. The company’s great classics, cuff watches, dials with hard stones, and gold link bracelets are also present. These treasures highlight a unique set of skills. The collection is also characterised by great freedom of movement and multiple ways of being worn.
Extremely Colorful, Stones at the service of colour
Everything begins with colour. And it has never been so forcefully present in a Piaget collection. Firstly thanks to precious stones, notably two emeralds, one cabochon-cut and the other cushion-cut, both weighing more than 25 carats, an over 20-carat engraved ruby, and a 20.2-carat cushion sapphire. And naturally, with hard stones: turquoise, opal, heart of ruby, jade, onyx, and lapis lazuli. They are not only used on the dials of watches, but also on High Jewellery creations. Thus for example, the two extremities of a precious row of turquoise beads are assembled in an emerald and diamond motif whose central stone weighs more than 23 carats in order to create an extremely supple long sautoir necklace.
The 1960s and 70s that inspired this collection were marked by an explosion of colour and new shapes. Piaget was the first to implement this trend in its jewellery and watchmaking collections. This creative liberty was made possible by the perfecting of Piaget’s in-house ultra-thin movements at the end of the 1950s. These enabled the introduction of hard stone dials on watches made by the Manufacture without in any way compromising the slimness of the cases.
The 2014 collection offers several watch models on which a hard stone is placed over a dial, but it also further explores the question of colour by playing with precious stones. Several ‘secret’ cuff watches are composed of interlacing diamond motifs coiled around an oval-shaped sapphire or emerald. The centre stone is engraved with floral motifs and may be lifted to reveal a watch dial.
These cuff watches are just one example of creations in which jewellery and watchmaking meet and merge. The collection offers another illustration in this regard with sautoir necklaces made of gold and adorned with lapis lazuli or turquoise medallions. From the tip of one of the pendants hangs a tiny oval-shaped watch module.
Freedom is one of the cornerstones of these liberated years. It is also one of the ideas that inspired the very “free” wearing of this collection. Long sautoir necklaces with one or more rows dance around the necks of the women wearing them. Gently swinging hoop earrings frame her face. Wrists are adorned with gold cuff bracelets sometimes adorned with natural turquoise beads and very fine opal plates finely set into preciou
15 minutes of fame
Andy Warhol is an icon of the 1960s and 70s. The leader of the New York Underground, was one of the founders of American Pop Art. The Factory, the creative workshop that he set up in New York in 1964, was the beginning of the artistic and cultural movement that still exists today. His works fetch tens of millions of dollars in auctions today.
An emblematic figure of an era that was both extravagant and very free, Andy Warhol is one of those who set the tone of fashion of his time. He was the originator of the memorable statement: “Everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. In 1973, he bought a Piaget watch with a very distinctively shaped case. It was not round and nor was it square or rectangular. In fact, it was all three at once and was developed in the 1950s by Piaget as part of its move to break away from classic right-angled watch case shapes.
The collection offers several watches with cases which adopt this shape that Andy Warhol loved so much. The rounded angles and the width of the metal give the watch depth and enhance the colours of the dials that are naturally made of hard stones. Every one is a way of indefinitely prolonging the famous 15 minutes of fame so dear to the heart of Andy Warhol.
A style icon
One of the women who symbolized both elegance and this new freedom of the 1960s was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. She was such a legend in her era that she was nicknamed “Jackie 0”, a moniker still used to this day. Her name sparked a look and a number of fashion accessories. Through her elegance, her simplicity and her beauty, she became one of the most popular and most photographed First Ladies.
The public discovered her in 1960 when her husband, John Kennedy, was elected President of the United States. She became a tragic yet regal figure when the President was assassinated in front of the television cameras in Dallas on November 22nd 1963. Five years later, she surprised the world even further by remarrying one of the richest men on the planet, Aristotle Onassis. Regarded as a legend during her lifetime, Jackie O has remained one since her death in 1994.
Jackie owned a Piaget watch created in 1965, featuring an oval jade dial set with diamonds and emeralds. It was fitted with an extremely supple bracelet made from a gold mesh adorned with a ‘palace’ decor. The 2014 collection includes several creations inspired by this watch that is now part of Piaget’s heritage.